One Pennsylvania chef recently made a splash in Tennessee, but he wasn’t in the kitchen. He was in a boat. Sort of.
Nick Lester is the Executive Chef at Green Valley Country Club in Lafayette Hill, PA. He is also an accomplished kayak fisherman who won the Kayak Bass Fisherman (KBF) Open in Tennessee earlier this month while fishing out of a 12-foot plastic kayak. Lester’s bass catches came in at a combined 92.25”, earning him a record breaking $16,000 grand prize and an invitation to the KBF National Championships.
“When you work a high stress job and are in a kitchen so much, you need to take some time to space out,” said Lester. “When I’m fishing I’m not thinking about cooking too much. I’m a pretty diligent fisherman.”
Lester has proven himself a very talented Chef as well. Growing up in Cary, North Carolina, Lester began cooking with his grandmother when he was 10-years-old. He had always cooked as a hobby, but when he turned 19 and was digging ditches for a living, he took a job washing dishes in a restaurant for some supplemental income.
“I worked my way up from there,” said Lester.
Lester was able to first prove his worth in North Carolina at the North Ridge Country Club before moving to Pennsylvania and working in various restaurants. With no formal training, Lester absorbed as much as he could from chefs he worked with, and in 2011 began his career at Green Valley Country Club. After several years of hard work, this past February he was promoted to Executive Chef.
The elegant Bar and Grille at Green Valley Country Club has a different menu every night, however, Lester always tries to keep Salmon and Shrimp dishes in the mix as they are member favorites. Shrimp spring rolls, Smoked Salmon canapes, fresh Mussels and Jumbo Lump Crab cakes are menu hits, and if you want the chef’s personal recommendation, hands down the delicious Trout.
Lester’s prowess as a seafood chef is only matched by his skill as an angler.
Lester learned to fish from the shore as a young man, and in his early 20’s when he was “looking for a hobby that kept me out of the bar” Lester decided to get back into fishing. With the ambition to fish large lakes and rivers, but a bank account to keep him on the shore, Lester opted to buy a Kayak instead of a pricy fishing boat.
“My second time out I caught a 22-inch bass,” said Lester. “I was hooked.”
Today, many Kayaks are designed specifically for fishing, and are used by anglers who want an inexpensive, portable craft that they can navigate through narrow, shallow bodies of water. Lester, admittedly, was not in a top of the line kayak at the KBF open, but he will be moving to a Feel Free Kayak with a larger beam across the bottom to give him more mobility for the National Championships.
“The hardest part of fishing in a Kayak is positioning,” said Lester. “You have to paddle to hold your position and try to fish at the same time.”
This act of multitasking has become symbolic of Lester’s life. With a very demanding job at an exclusive club, his star rising as a kayak bass fisherman and the responsibility to raise three young children alongside his wife Ashley, Lester’s life has become a balancing act.
“I have the best wife in the entire world,” said Lester. “She has always supported anything I’ve wanted to do.”
With the support of his family, Lester has been able to handle both aspects of his life with the skillfulness and craft that only a true chef… and fisherman can do.
Visit www.greenvalleycc.org for more info.